Can you do it?
I am always so on. Engaged. Reaching out. Helping. But this creates a situation where everyone expects a response. Now.
Same for you?
People know when we’ve read their Facebook message (and our texts if we’re dumb enough to leave that “read” function on). And if they can see we’re online, via Facebook, they can write a “??” to us on email when we don’t reply to their Gmail-issued request within a few minutes. You’re on your computer or phone…attend to me!
Some folk in our orbits treat us like The Google. They ask us stuff before thinking, with consideration that, hmmm, perhaps I could do a web search for that myself.
Of course, folk like myself – the overly conscientious – respond and help like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Which creates a rod for our back; the more available we are, the more people rely on us. By way of contrast, I have a brother – we’ll call him Pete – who’s not on social media, never has his Nokia (yes!) turned on and never replies to family email threads. As a result, no one counts on him and he’s left with oodles of spare time and a clear conscience. Can we learn from Pete? I think we need to.
I will always be someone who wants to help and connect. But I do think that this too easily becomes an unhealthy need. The ping of social media feedback creates a dopamine hit and we become addicted to feeling needed and wanted and connected and relevant. It’s also become a source of resentment at the same time. Addiction-resentment-addiction… a horrible feedback loop, right?
I think being unavailable for a day is the antidote
Let’s say a day a week. You know, just to ensure we don’t become addicted, and other’s don’t become addicted to us. I do the same with coffee…1-2 days off a week, to keep things on its toes.
Don’t respond to that text, the one that demands of you unfairly, or lazily. Let it linger. The situation will resolve – miraculously – on its own. Just watch.
Don’t respond to that text, the one that is plain silly or passive aggressive. Give the situation space. Silence will be the perfect mirror to the sender’s bad behaviour.
Turn off notifications on all social media, texts and emails. Stop the dopamine addiction.
Don’t post an experience on Instagram or Facebook. Keep the moment for yourself.
Let your inbox fill and fill. Watch with fascination how threads manage to sort themselves out by the next day, without your input.
Leave your phone at home, even if just when you go to do something recreational. Even go as far as giving your phone to a friend, if you must (I know someone going through a pesky breakup who did this for a few days).
Let your partner work out where to find the sticky tape. It will be good for them to get to know the stationery drawer.
Learn to like the idea that you are not needed right now. Learn to know you are powerful in your silence, your stillness, your discernment.
I’ve been doing a bit of this lately. I see it all as a way to retrain the world to not expect a reply immediately, every time. I see it as a way to retrain the world to think with consideration before asking me to solve their issue. This then keeps them on their toes and they’ll be thrilled when I do reply quickly. Win. Win. Win.
I also see it as a way to give back space to others. When the somewhat lazy or passive stop relying on you, a vacuum is created. They can step into this space and fill it themselves. This will be empowering for them. Another win.
This all takes practice. One day a week should build the right muscles.
Willing to give it a go?